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L to R: Ankit Bhati and Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founders, Ola Photo Credit: olacabs.com

Ola’s Aggarwal, Bhati lowest-paid unicorn founders, yet raked in millions

Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, co-founders of cab-aggregator Ola, may be the proverbial poster boys of Indian e-commerce, but they are the lowest paid among all unicorn​ founders in the country.​ A unicorn is a company valued at more than a billion dollar​s.​

Th​is came to light when the Bangalore-based company, run by ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd, filed its annual returns with the Registrar of Companies (RoC) last month.

Aggarwal and Bhati drew Rs 39.75 lakh each for ​the ​financial year ended March 2016, the filings show​. This​ makes Aggarwal the lowest-paid founder-CEO of an Indian unicorn. Still, this is better than the Rs 24.91 lakh he earned in FY15. Bhati’s annual pay package, however, more than doubled from Rs 17.9 lakh in the previous year. These numbers do not include employee stock option plans (ESOPs).

​Industry observers commend the idea of startup founders not indulging themselves with big pay packages. ​Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst at Greyhound Research, said, “Taking a modest salary is more of a moral responsibility for the founders than an obligation.”

However, the duo’s low salaries show ​only ​part of the picture. According to Ola’s standalone financial statements for 2015-16, the founders offloaded some shares in the company in May 2015, making handsome money. Aggarwal sold 350 shares and Bhati sold 200.

Though the share price for the transaction is not available, just two months prior to this, Ola had raised $404 million in Series E funding, allotting equity shares at Rs 15,87,102 apiece.

If the share price of this transaction is taken as a proxy, the founders must have together made Rs 87 crore from the stake sale.

Aggarwal would have earned Rs 55.54 crore for his 350 shares, and Bhati is likely to have made Rs 31.74 crore for his 200 shares.

Email queries sent by VCCircle to Ola seeking comment did not elicit a response.

Anshuman Das, managing partner at executive search firm Longhouse, said: “Founders make money through secondary transactions. Their salaries are no big deal. If the founders are not doing many secondary sale transactions, then it shows their belief in the company.”

Mitesh Shah, who was Ola’s chief financial officer till January last year, earned Rs 2.66 crore in remuneration for FY2016, including Rs 1.21 crore in ESOP settlement.

Rajiv Bansal, who replaced Shah, had a cost-to-company of Rs 2.02 crore (including ESOPs) for FY2016. He quit early this year.

Zomato co-founders Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah, at Rs 48 lakh and Rs 52 lakh, respectively, were also modestly paid.

​It might be interesting to mention here that Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal,​ founders of beleaguered online marketplace ​Snapdeal, ​decided to​ forego their salaries this year.

Data on salary packages of Flipkart and InMobi founders were not available with the RoC.

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Ola’s Aggarwal, Bhati lowest-paid unicorn founders, yet raked in millions

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